The Chan Romero Story

On May 15, 2007 Chan Romero was inducted into The Rockabilly Hall of Fame at the prestigious Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, WI, this venue was host to one of Ritchie Valens' last performances before his tragic death. Chan Romero has the distinction of being the first Latino Rocker to be inducted into the RHOF.

Latino rock 'n' roll, '59, from Los Angeles, via Billings, Montana! Chan Romero's electrifying rock 'n' roll smash "Hippy Hippy Shake," qualified him as a special influence to the Beatles, a bona fide hit maker destined for stardom, and forever one of the characters who made the pop scene of that era so spontaneous and colorful. "Hippy Hippy Shake" is featured in the films "Cocktail", "Austin Powers" and "Angels in the Outfield".

Chan Romero was born July 7th, 1941 in Billings, to a Spanish-Apache father and a Mexican-Cherokee-Irish mother. His parents had migrated from Northern New Mexico during the Great Depression to seek work in Montana's wheat fields. Although christened "Robert", Chan's grandfather gave the young, frequently shoeless lad the nickname "Chan" from a Spanish phrase meaning "little boy with pig's feet".

When rock 'n' roll arrived in 1955, Chan flipped. "When I first saw Elvis on the Steve Allan show, he sang 'Hound Dog' and it made the hair stand up on my head. It made me say, 'I gotta do this.' My big inspiration was Elvis, until Ritchie Valens came along. We dug just about everybody back than: Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, LaVerne Baker and Connie Francis. I really liked the rockabilly of Wanda Jackson. 'Love is Strange' (Mickey & Sylvia) is one of my favorite songs."

In the summer of '58, Chan was visiting relatives in East Los Angeles, he heard "Come On, Let's Go" by Del-Fi recording artist Ritchie Valens and love in love with it. He thought, "Gee, that guy's got an unusual voice: That is when he wrote "Hippy Hippy Shake".

It was Billings, Montana's top deejay, Don Redfield, who made the initial contact with Del-Fi that eventually landed Chan his first recording contract. In the aftermath of Valen's tragic death in February 1959, Redfield chose Del-Fi to pitch Chan, as he thought Chan sounded similar to Valens. He had Chan and his band come down to his station to record "Hippy Hippy Shake", Redfield sent the tape to Del-Fi founder, Bob Keane. Keane was impressed by Chan's talent and immediately brought him to Los Angeles. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Chan played his songs one-on-one for Bob Keane, who had his trusty 2-track machine running. This tape survived and will be included on the Del-Fi story box set.

Keane really liked what he heard and set Chan up for his first full-fledged studio session in June of 1959. It was held at the legendary Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. Chan was accompanied by the same studio musicians that recorded with Ritchie Valens.

Rene Hall played lead guitar and six string bass, Irving Ashby, former member of the Nat King Cole Trio on stand up bass, Barney Kissel on rhythm guitar and Earl Plamer on drums. Rene Hall plucked a longhorn Danelectro bass as if it were a lead guitar. "It is what he used for the lick that starts out Ritchie's 'La Bamba', said Chan.

The very first song laid down was the rapid rocker "Hippy Hippy Shake", a blistering 1:43 blowout of white -hot hysteria. A single was released as Del-Fi 4119 with a ballad "If I Had a Way" on the flip. "Hippy Hippy Shake" was well received in the United States and shot all the way to #3 in Australia. In early 1960, Chan was whisked off for a nation tour "Down Under" which featured Jerry Lee Lewis. The single made its way to Liverpool where the Beatles jumped on it and it now appears on "The Beatles Live at the BBC". The Swinging Blue Jeans had a hit with it, #24 in the U.S. and #3 in England, 5 years after Chan recorded it. "Every band in Liverpool had that song in the repertoire", says Rip Masters, longtime rockabilly/boogie-woogie madman.

The Follow-up was "My Little Ruby" and "I Don't Care" (Del-Fi 4126) recorded in September 1959, again a rocker with a ballad on the flip.

Chan never actually met Ricthie Valens during his brief tenure in the music world. However, Keane introduced him to Ritchies's mother, Mrs. Connie Valenzuela, who invited Chan into her home in April '59 to spend a weekend with them. The weekend turned into an extended stay of several months. "It became almost a second home and they became my second family," said Chan, who remain close to them to this day.

Chan and LaVerne Romero presently live in Cathedral City, California and are proud parents of 11 children and 30 grandchildren.

During the Gulf War, Chan penned the patriotic "America" to encourage Americans to value the freedom sometimes taken for granted. The song is included in Chan's new release of "Right Track".

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, hit home reminding Chan and LaVerne Romero of how great our country is and how resilient all Americans are in bonding together during these difficult times.

"Right Track" is the first release on the "Golden Dreams" imprint based in Palm Springs, California and founded by entertainment entrepreneur Manuel Montoya. Chan's first commercial release in over 40 years includesnew renditionof "Hippy Hippy Shake", and eight unpublished Chan Romero copyrights as well as collaborations by Jimmy Osmond on title track, "Right Track" and "Hippy Hippy Shake", English and Spanish versions,as well as up and coming R&B Artist,Nancy Franklin, on "Rock This Place Tonight".also an all time first, Chan performs "Hippy Hippy Shake", "Wendy", "Rock 'n' Roll Music Man", and"Ya Me Voy" in Spanish. "Golden Dreams" is a division of Montoya Entertainment Group.

The Romero's have experienced a renewed commitment to Christianity.

Manuel Montoya, President and CEO
Montoya Entertainment Group
P.O. Box # 468
Palm Springs, CA. 92263
(760) 320-9687

Page updated April, 2007

Rockabilly Hall of Fame